How Singing Can Help People With Dementia

Written by Active Minds on Friday the 1st of September 2017.

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The belief that music-related activities can be beneficial for people living with dementia has gained popularity in recent years. Research shows that pastimes such as dancing and music groups, can not only provide an essential social environment but also help relax an individual living with dementia, as well as evoke memories and trigger conversation.

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The recent formation of dementia focused musical groups only further goes to prove the huge benefits of these activities. Charities such as Lost Chord, which brings interactive musical sessions to dementia care homes, have been created to help people living with dementia using the power of music.

Singing is one such music-related activity which has a huge number of benefits for people living with dementia. Singing helps relax the body’s muscles, and the breath control needed to sing not only helps expands one’s lung capacity but will also help increase blood flow to the brain. Singing can also relieve stress, by reducing cortisol (a stress hormone), as well as increasing immunity and decreasing symptoms of depression.

Additionally, songs with actions, or call and response verses, help exercise concentration, and learning new songs will challenge the brain, encouraging brain function. But, by far the most positive impact of singing for people with dementia is the power song has to trigger memory, both emotionally and conversationally. For proof, one only needs to look at this wonderful, heartwarming video of Ted McDermott and his son, which went viral last year. Ted, 79, was diagnosed with dementia in 2013, and had been struggling to recognise his family members. However, as soon as his son plays him his favourite songs, he knows the words and tune straight away. Music is able to trigger our autobiographical memories, allowing us to not only reminisce, but also reinforce our sense of identity and help us connect emotionally and socially with loved ones, which is incredibly important for people who are living with dementia.

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Singing groups for people with dementia, such as the Alzheimer’s Society’s Singing For The Brain, allow attendees to enjoy all the positive benefits of singing, within a comfortable, welcoming and social environment.